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Adventures / Summit Fever

Guatemala 5 Volcano Challenge

Hike and summit five of Guatemala's volcanoes - dubbed 'The Ring of Fire' - ending up at spectacular Lake Atitlan

Location

Guatemala

Fly To

La Aurora Airport

Perfect for

Beginners and experienced hikers with good levels of fitness. No previous hiking at altitude experience needed.

Difficulty

Challenging

Why it's much better

  • Summit 5 volcanoes in the Guatemalan highlands
  • 7 days of hiking through lava fields, cloud forests and Maya villages
  • Stand on top of the highest point of Central America, Tajumulco volcano (4220m)
  • See each of Guatemala's 3 active volcanoes, including the continuously erupting 'Volcan de Fuego'
  • Camp at an altitude of 3000m+ on 2 of Guatemala's highest volcanoes
  • Watch the sunrise from Acatenango volcano, with 360 degree views all the way to Mexico
  • Explore the Spanish colonial towns of Antigua and Quetzaltenango
  • Wind down at beautiful Lake Atitlan where you can swim, kayak or get some hammock time

What's Included

  • Guides Expert, English-speaking local guides
  • Accommodation 7 nights in locally owned, independent hotels. 2 nights camping on volcanoes
  • Meals 8 breakfasts, 6 lunches, 2 dinners
  • Transfers All airport transfers
  • Permits All permits and entry fees
  • Equipment Camping equipment for the nights on Acatenango and Tajumulco volcanoes
  • Happiness Guaranteed We're so confident that your holiday will be your best yet, we actually guarantee it
  • Feel Good Vibes We mitigate 4x the carbon emitted by all our travellers and support important conservation projects

Itinerary

Day 1: Arrive at the airport in Guatemala City and transfer to Antigua

You'll be met at the La Aurora international airport in Guatemala City by your host and be transferred to Antigua, your base for the first of the volcano climbs. The transfer takes 1 hour.

After checking in to your hotel, depending on what time your flight landed, you may have some free time to wander Antigua's cobbled streets and browse the myriad street stalls.

Day 2: Hike Pacaya Volcano

In the morning you'll get straight to the job at hand: climbing volcanoes. You'll drive to the trailhead of Pacaya volcano, lace up your hiking boots and head for the summit.

The route to the top weaves through lava fields, formed by eruptions as recent as 2010. Geothermal hotspots can be found on the cooled lava formations; you can even roast marshmallows here to fuel your hike!

When you reach Pacaya's peak - your first of five volcano summits - you'll enjoy a picnic overlooking neighbouring volcanoes Agua, Fuego and Acatenango. The hike back down meanders through more lava fields, forests and farmland. You end up back to the trailhead ready for the drive back to Antigua.

Your evening is free to grab a beer and some classic Central American food from Antigua's many street stalls, bars, restaurants and cafes.

Hiking distance: 6km - Elevation ascent 400m / descent 400m - Duration: 3-4 hours

Highest point: 2288m

Day 3: Acatenango Volcano hike and overnight camp

You'll grab a big breakfast in Antigua before heading to the trailhead at La Soledad. Today's volcano hike is up the imposing Acatenango.

The hike starts off through farmland and small villages, before ascending into a cloud forest. This is an area of high biodiversity, home to the famous Quetzal bird. You'll soon be greeted with sweeping views of the highlands and neighbouring volcanoes: a good time for a scenic refuel as you picnic on the volcano slopes.

After hiking through temperate forest, you'll reach the private camp spot at 3750m above sea level, cut into the slopes just below the tree line. Enjoy a fresh camp dinner and a night around the campfire. You are likely to have views of Fuego volcano belching fumes into the sky, just 4km away. It is an active volcano, with its last major eruption in 2018.

Hiking distance: 8km - Elevation ascent 1100m / descent 0m - Duration: 5-6 hours

Highest point: 3750m

Day 4: Sunrise on Acatenango volcano and descend to Quetzaltenango

You'll rise early to complete the hour-long hike to the summit of Acatenango, along a sand and scree covered trail. Reaching the cold and windswept summit, you'll be rewarded with 360-degree views of the entire Guatemalan highlands, all the way to the border of Mexico.

You'll descend via a different route, moving through several different micro-climates as you lose altitude. Back at the trailhead, you'll jump in the van and head towards Guatemala's second largest city, Quetzaltenango - also known by its Mayan name, Xela. The drive is along the Pan-American highway, passing its highest point, known locally as 'Alaska'.

Check into your hotel in Xela and enjoy a free evening in this lively city.

Hiking distance: 7km - Elevation ascent 475m / descent 1575m - Duration: 2-3 hours

Highest point: 3976m

Day 5: Hike up Santa Maria volcano

Next up is your third volcano peak: Santa Maria. Again you'll have an early start - but as the well-known phrase goes: the early bird summits the volcano! There is a 45 minute drive to reach the village of Llanos del Pinal where your hike starts.

Santa Maria has a fairly steep ascent to the summit along a dirt trail. After 4 or 5 hours of hiking, you'll have earnt your summit views: a spectacular bird's eye view of Santa Maria's sister volcano, the active Santiaguito. From high up on Santa Maria, you'll be able to look down into the fiery crater of Santiaguito. If you're lucky you may get to witness an eruption.

Back at your hotel in Xela, you'll have a free evening to explore the city and chill after another incredible day of volcano hiking.

Hiking distance: 10km - Elevation ascent 1200m / descent 1200m - Duration: 6-7 hours

Highest point: 3770m

Day 6: Drive to Tuichan and hike Tajumulco volcano; Central America's highest point

Another early start for a 3 hour drive to Tuichan, close to the border with Mexico. Surely you weren't expecting a lie in by now! Tuichan is the base for your climb up Tajumulco, Guatemala's highest volcano and the highest point in all of Central America.

The hiking today is fairly easy going, but it's a long day with around 7 or 8 hours of hiking. There are beautiful forest trails and pine studded ridges on the way to your camp spot for the night. You'll put your head down to sleep at roughly 4000m above sea level - but not just yet.

From the camp, the volcano summit is a steep climb for 30 minutes more, topping out at 4219m. You're officially on the top of Central America! Another awesome night of wild volcano camping awaits on the short descent back to camp.

Hiking distance: 8km - Elevation ascent: 1100m / descent 0m - Duration: 5-6 hours

Highest point: 4219m

Day 7: Descend Tajumulco and drive to Lake Atitlan

Wake up on the volcano and make your descent down Tajumulco. You have a long drive to recover on, with a lunch stop en route, through the Guatemalan highlands to spectacular Lake Atitlan. You'll take a boat across the lake from Panajachel to your lakeside eco hotel in the small town of San Pedro.

The rest of the day is free to relax and enjoy this special place. Head in to town or just lie in a hammock and bask in the views of water and fire - lake and volcanoes all around you.

Hiking distance: 5km - Elevation ascent 20m / descent 1120m - Duration: 2-3 hours

Highest point: 3970m

Day 8: Hike up San Pedro Volcano

You may have been relaxing, but this adventure isn't over yet! Today is your fifth and final volcano summit: San Pedro volcano. After breakfast beside the lake, you'll take a boat across to the trail head. Experience your final epic hike through cloud forest, with sweeping highland vistas and spectacular views back down towards Lake Atitlan.

At over 3000m, San Pedro volcano is no baby, but a fitting place to end your volcano hiking adventure.

Hiking distance: 9km - Elevation ascent 1200m / descent 1200m - Duration: 7-8 hours

Highest point: 3020m

Day 9: Day at Lake Atitlan

Congratulations, you've summited five volcanoes in a week! You've certainly earned a rest day, so the lake and eco hotel is yours to soak up as you wish.

There are kayaks available for use, or you can head to one of the best swimming spots at the lake. If you have some energy left, you can opt to head out ziplining or take a trip to nearby Mayan villages.

Late in the afternoon you'll head back to Antigua for a final evening celebrating your week of volcano summiting.

Day 10: Transfer to Guatemala City airport

Enjoy breakfast at Antigua and any spare time you may have before your host takes you back to the airport in Guatemala City for your departure flight.

Please Note

All our adventures take place in wild places. Things can go wrong in wild places. Your perfectly planned itinerary may change a bit (or a lot) if the weather turns, someone gets hurt, or a volcano erupts. Usually though, changes make it all the better.

Accommodation

You'll stay in locally owned, independent 3 star hotels in Antigua and Quetzaltenango; a lakeside eco-hotel in Lake Atitlan and wild camp at altitude on two volcanos: Acatenango and Tajumulco.

In Antigua your base will be at Hotel San Jorge, located on a quiet corner just a couple of blocks away from Parque Central. Hotel San Jorge is described as being like a country hacienda, with Spanish colonial architecture and a lush central garden and courtyard.

In Quetzaltenango you'll stay in Hotel Modelo: a charming, historic hotel run by four generations of the same family.

At Lake Atitlan you'll stay at Sak'cari in San Pedro la Laguna. This is an eco-hotel right on the waterfront, run on renewable energy and with an amazing pool with views of the lake and volcanoes. This is a perfect spot to wind down after all the volcano action.

You'll also camp on volcanoes Acatenango and Tajumulco. All of your camping gear is provided; tent, sleeping mat and sleeping bag. Be advised that night time on the volcanoes can be quite cold, so do bring warm layers with you. There will be campfires to keep you toasty at dinner time, while stargazing and watching Fuego volcano do its thing.

Rooms are all twin share basis unless you request a private room upgrade.

Private Room Upgrade

For solo travellers looking for their own space, an optional private room and tent can be booked for £385 per person (subject to availability).

Location

Antigua is a charming Spanish colonial city and one of Guatemala's tourist gems. Volcanic peaks loom over its classic colonial architecture, while the streets are lined with food and drink stalls, bars, cafes and restaurants.

Quetzaltenango, also known by its Maya name Xela, is Guatemala's second largest city and the centre of the Quiche Mayan people. The city is set against a backdrop of volcanoes, including towering Santa María which you'll be standing on top of on day 5.

Lake Atitlan is another of Guatemala's gems, a large body of water sitting in a volcanic crater. The lake is lined by Mayan villages.

Meeting Point

Start Point

Your trip starts at La Aurora international airport in Guatemala City. transfers are included if you arrive on the start day, so please let your host know your flight times.

Finish Point

Your trip ends back at La Aurora international airport in Guatemala City, where your host will drop you off in time for your departing flight. Transfers are included if you depart on the final day, so please let your host know your flight times.

Frequently Asked Questions

Guatemala has 37 volcanoes, 3 of which are active: Pacaya, Fuego and Santiaguito. You will hike to the top of Pacaya. To experience Fuego and Santiaguito you will hike to the top of their 'sister' volcanoes: Acatenango and Santa Maria. This gives you the best views of the active volcanoes without being too close for comfort. Fuego in particular has been called the most continuously active volcano in the world.

You'll only need to carry a day pack for each hike. Your main pack can be left behind in Antigua, Quetzaltenango and Atitlan, and will be transferred in between each of your bases.

Yes, for the two overnight volcano camps everyone in the group pitches in and helps carry the camping gear: sleeping bags, pads and parts of the tent you will be using. This is all part of the experience of hiking to the top of a volcano and pitching up for a night sleeping out on the summit.

Additional porters for the overnight camp sections are available to hire locally at an extra cost: $25usd each way. Your host in Guatemala has worked alongside local communities around the volcanoes to help set up a guide association to ensure fair pay for porters and guides, and high safety standards for all visitors to the volcanoes.

The following are not included in the trip price:

  • Travel to/from Guatemala City
  • Travel insurance
  • Personal expenses
  • Evening meals in Antigua, Xela and Atitlan
  • Lunches on non-hike days
  • Alcoholic drinks

You'll need a good level of fitness for this trip. You'll be scaling 5 volcanoes in 10 days and some of the ascents are steep. You won't need any technical ability or mountain climbing experience. You'll just be happy hiking for several hours a day and being active for several days in a row.

Sure can! Over 50% of our travellers travel solo, it’s a great way to meet like-minded people.

Traditional Guatemalan food is based on Maya cuisine with Spanish influences. Classic meals usually include corn, beans, chillies, rice, pork, beef, chicken, cheese and tortillas as staple ingredients.

Your host has deliberately not included the evening meals in Antigua, Xela and Atitlan in your trip. Guatemala is cheap and it's great fun to explore the food options in each place. Antigua in particular is a food lover's dream, the street food scene here is worth investing some time and Quetzals in.

Camp dinners on Acatenango and Tajumulco are real highlights of the trip. Your guide will prep Guatemalan food on the slopes while you take in the views of the neighbouring, and often erupting, volcanic peaks.

Picnic lunches are provided on hiking days.

Dry season runs from November to March, with the fringe months of October and April also being good times to visit. The Guatemalan highlands have a great climate for hiking, with lows of 10°C and highs of 27°C generally.

Be aware that the nights camping on Acatenango and Tajumulco volcanoes will be cold as you are sleeping at around 4000m above sea level. Make sure to pack enough warm layers for this part. Thermals, fleeces or light down jackets will be fine.

Yes you can leave your excess luggage in Antigua if you need to. Be aware that you won't be returning to Antigua until the end of the trip, so you'll need to take everything with you for the volcano climbs to come.

We’ve teamed up with the guys at World Nomads to offer insurance designed for adventurous travellers across 140 countries that includes overseas medical, evacuation, baggage and a range of adventure sports and activities. To get yours sorted, click here.

We suggest that you book travel insurance as soon as you book the trip, just to cover you for any last minute life changes. We know you’re an active lot and injuries do happen!

Our group adventures are adult only. However, if you would like to bring children along, this can be arranged by requesting a private trip with the host. This trip is suitable for children from age 13 only.

Tips are not included in the trip cost. These are entirely at your discretion. Your guide will help with advice however, we suggest the below as a guideline per person:

Guide: 3-5 US dollars a day

Of course, you are free to tip more or less and the amount should be reflective of your perception of service and quality - a tip is not compulsory and should only be given when you receive excellent service.

Tap water in Guatemala is not safe to drink, so you'll need to stick to bottled or filtered water. Each hotel you'll stay in will have filtered water where you can fill up your bottles before each hike.

Your host is passionate about reducing single-use plastic waste in Guatemala, so they won't provide plastic bottles of drinking water at any stage.

Many destinations require a visa and for your passport to be valid for 6 months minimum. Up to date advice for UK citizens can be found here.

We recommend checking out the country specific information here and also talking to a travel nurse.

For current advice about travelling in Guatemala, have a read of the FCO pages here

Bags

  • Soft overnight duffel bag or rucksack
  • Daypack
  • Waterproof liner for rucksack or drybags

Clothes

  • Down jacket
  • Waterproof jacket
  • Waterproof trousers
  • Breathable wicking layers
  • Fleece jacket or similar
  • Thermals (merino is best)
  • Warm hat
  • Buff or neckscarf
  • Lightweight trousers/shorts/skirts
  • T-shirts
  • Underwear & socks
  • Swimwear
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunhat
  • Something to sleep in
  • Hiking boots (worn-in)
  • Sandals

Other

  • Padlock for left luggage
  • Universal travel plug adapter
  • Power bank or solar charger
  • Spare camera batteries
  • Passports (and visas)
  • Travel Insurance documents
  • Ear plugs
  • Insect repellant
  • Suncream
  • Personal first-aid kit (inc. blister treatment)
  • Personal items (biodegradable toiletries, sanitary wear etc)
  • Toilet kit (toilet paper, biodegradable bags to carry out)
  • Quick-dry towel
  • Alcohol hand-gel
  • Headtorch or torch
  • Reusable water bottle x 1 ltr
  • Quickdry towel
  • Biodegradable wet-wipes
  • Energy bars and snacks
  • Water purification tablets/treatment system

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